Jonathan Zittran wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, called Lost in the Cloud. It’s a good opinion piece on the risks of the “cloud” or cloud computing.
You might be asking yourself: What is the “cloud”?
Basically it the shared and networked environment online. Do you use Facebook? Do you do online banking? Do you use Mosby for your backups? Essentially these online activities mean that you place information about yourself and your activities online. You typically get to them by using a username and password. Increasingly, we are taking advantage of “clouds” as we move from using our individual computers to more online tasks and activities.
There is a lot of talk about the advantages of the cloud. But what about the disadvantages and even risks? This is why Zittran’s article is important. It reminds us of the risks we take as we increasingly move our activities from our personal computer to online environments.
Some of the things Zittran brings to the forefront are:
- Trust: How much trust to we place in the onlines services that we use and store sometimes very personal information?
- Privacy: Should the government or an online service eavesdrop on my online activities? What are the limits?
- Safety: What happens to those who fall victim to cybercrime?
These are excellent points that Zittran brings to our attention as risks that we face in cloud computing. Another good point that Zittran made is to push for legislation that will iron out either inconsistencies or lack of safety nets for the cloud. This advocacy will help ensure our privacy as well as provide a safety net for cloud computing and online activities.
I have talked about cloud computer in several posts in this blog. I was happy to find a good explanation of what cloud computing is and how it is already a part of our everyday computing world.
Schneider on Security has this to say about cloud computing:
This year’s overhyped IT concept is cloud computing. Also called software as a service (Saas), cloud computing is when you run software over the internet and access it via a browser. The Salesforce.com customer management software is an example of this. So is Google Docs. If you believe the hype, cloud computing is the future.
But, hype aside, cloud computing is nothing new . It’s the modern version of the timesharing model from the 1960s, which was eventually killed by the rise of the personal computer. It’s what Hotmail and Gmail have been doing all these years, and it’s social networking sites, remote backup companies, and remote email filtering companies such as MessageLabs. Any IT outsourcing — network infrastructure, security monitoring, remote hosting — is a form of cloud computing.
The old timesharing model arose because computers were expensive and hard to maintain. Modern computers and networks are drastically cheaper, but they’re still hard to maintain. As networks have become faster, it is again easier to have someone else do the hard work. Computing has become more of a utility; users are more concerned with results than technical details, so the tech fades into the background.
The post ends with a part on how this affects IT security and the need for trust. This is definitely true. Whether it is online banking, online shopping, or even going through emails, people need to trust the security of the online software and applications they use. This is because as Schneider points out that most of what people use the web for is already cloud computing.